College for All or College for None?

Analyzing Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders’ plan to make higher education more affordable. 

Unlike most of his political peers, on both sides of the ticket, Bernie Sanders’ presidential candidacy announcement was far from ostentatious. There was no viral video, no flashy production—just a released statement quickly followed by a short press conference on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol, attended by approximately two dozen reporters and photographers.

Senator Sanders’ campaign and the issues he’s addressed have been an embodiment of this low-key announcement. He has the largest fundraising base of small donors ever seen in primary elections, and refuses donations from super PACS and large corporations. By the end of January, according to the Huffington Post, his campaign had raised over $95 million, all from 1.3 million people giving a total of 3.25 million separate contributions, and received over $6 million in individual donations in the 24 hours following his momentous win in the New Hampshire primary.

The U.S. Senator from Vermont has separated himself on many issues from Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton, speaking out against Wall Street banks and the influence of money in politics, both of which have been critical for the Clinton campaign. Senator Sanders’ has recently come out stronger, and far left, of Clinton on more issues, including a broader universal health care system and growth of the middle class. The feasibility of a Sanders nomination has grown, as more and more Americans “Feel the Bern” and Sanders climbs closer and closer to Clinton’s national lead.

One of his pinnacle campaigning points has been college affordability and the assurance of a free college education from public state institutions. Senator Sanders has assured his supporters, who have grown younger and more vocal with this policy proposal, that it could be accomplished through minor tax increases on the wealthy, increases that could bring in as much as $6.5 trillion over 10 years, according to his staff.

A debt-free college proposal, which is what Senator Sanders proposes in his College For All Act, is an issue present on all of the candidates issue sheets, yet Senator Sanders’ is by far the most liberal, and so appealing to so many college students.

As appealing and important as this issue is for both college students and those who help support them, the specific college affordability policy and the methods and practices the Sanders campaign has proposed is simply unfair and unfeasible for the President and the United States government to accomplish.

Before even beginning to address the policy itself, the feasibility of attempting to implement a bill of such a nature would be slim to none. As significant as a piece of legislation like this is, passing this program would be difficult, if not impossible, due to the current political arrangement of our legislative branch. So long as the House of Representatives remain controlled by the conservative Republicans, a bill of this precedent would not pass a vote on the floor.

The program, according to the Wall Street Journal, amounts to increasing total federal spending by about one-third – to a projected $68 trillion or so over 10 years. His proposals would increase government spending to about 30% of the gross domestic product annually in the first year, up from the roughly 20% that had become standard in the past, the Journal added.

After considering the unintended consequences Sanders’ well intended plan would yield, it seems as though it would not help college students, but hurt them.

By: Brandon Campbell ’18

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